World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Review


World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Review

World of Warcraft (WoW) is an interesting – and unique – game to
assess. Originally released in 2004, the base title has been continually
expanded over time, and in many ways barely resembles the version many
of us first logged on to eight years ago. Considering that, however, the
WoW we play today does still have a lot in common with its 1.0
iteration, and games that have been released much more recently have
certainly moved the genre along.

Which makes the latest expansion for the game, Mists of Pandaria,
somewhat challenging to review. In many ways, it’s a disappointment; it
lacks many of the tweaks and improvements that games like Star Wars: The
Old Republic and the more recently released Guild Wars 2 have made to
the general MMO formula. Not only that, but there’s now a large amount
of legacy material you have to wade through when playing for the first
time or starting a new character, and each tier of content, as
introduced by each expansion, changes the rules somewhat, resulting in
an inconsistent experience from level 1 to the new cap of level 90.

But you also have to consider the fact that World of Warcraft is a
much better place to spend time in, now that Mists of Pandaria is
available. Arguably, this is the most important metric of all, as it is
this version of World of Warcraft that players – once they’ve leveled,
of course – will spend their time in.

The single largest contributing factor to this new and improved world
(of Warcraft) is the addition of many new (and mostly interesting)
things to do. Typically, on reaching the level cap, most players begin
the gearing up process by running dungeons over and over, so they can
then run heroic (harder, with better loot) versions of the dungeons over
and over, so they can then run raids (much harder dungeons, designed
for 10-25 players) over and over – all in their quest to become as
powerful as they can.

That sort of end-game is still there, for those who are still
motivated by it, but now there are several other things to do as well.
One popular pastime, for example, is the new Pokemon-like pet battling
system. With it you can find and battle critters all over the world,
leveling up your own pets in your quest to take down WoW’s pet battling
champions. It’s well implemented and great fun, providing an excellent
alternate revenue stream too, thanks to the fact that you can sell your
leveled-up pets and find rare ones in the wild.

Scenarios are a new form of dungeon that play out a lot like a quest
and, thanks to the fact that they connect up any combination of three
players (rather than a tank, a healer, and three damage dealers for a
normal dungeon), they’re super easy to get into as well. Beyond that,
however, their long-term success is somewhat less than guaranteed as you
earn very little from participating in one; other than seeing each of
them once or twice, and trying to unlock the various achievements to be
found within, it’s unclear what can really be gained from completing
them repeatedly.

The reputation system has been given a slight tweak this time around,
with Mists of Pandaria factions often linking together in interesting
ways. To unlock access to some, for example, you have to get to a
certain level with others. Or, to purchase gear earned with currency
acquired in those repeated dungeon runs that are so popular, you’ll need
to be of good standing with the faction that sells the gear you want.
Yes, it’s a bit grindy, but that does fit well within World of
Warcraft’s general set of mechanics, and the interrelations between game
systems are a definite improvement on the way things were.

The new class – the Monk – is great fun to play, if a little dominant
in any given situation. Leveling, they pretty much destroy anything you
put in front of them, and at the end-game they always seem to populate
the upper end of tables that measure damage, healing, or tanking
prowess. Still, Blizzard have proven that they’re great at normalizing
classes that are too good or too bad at any given role, so over time I
suspect any balance issues that actually exist will be brought into

Dungeons and raids are fun, with each – like most of the quests, for
that matter – combining familiar experiences and new mechanics to result
in something that’s both approachable and fresh. Difficulty feels about
right, to me at least, falling somewhere between Cataclysm’s first tier
of heroics (which were mental-hard to play with strangers) and the
second, which were a tad on the easy side. You need to pay attention,
and not be a muppet, but you can figure out what’s going on largely
through observation alone – something that indicates smart, considered

The fact that there’s a strong beer-related theme running throughout
the expansion, including in its dungeons, didn’t hurt my enjoyment, as
I’m a bit of an enthusiast in that particular area. But it’s something
to be aware of – especially if alcohol in general is something you try
to avoid.

Visually, Pandaria is an amazing place to spend time. In particular,
the hills and mountains are superbly executed, with a clear change in
the way verticality is approached – both by designers and by the
technical team. The whole “Asian-inspired” aesthetic, too, is carried
off incredibly well and when simply chilling out in Pandaria, whether
flying high on the back of a cloud serpent or exploring a river network
on a raft, the world feels big and full of wonder; a marked comparison
to the rather stunted and discrete experiences found elsewhere in

Ultimately, then, while it falls short of the entirely voice acted
and personally driven narratives of modern MMOs in some ways, Blizzard
have yet again proven that they know what it takes to deliver compelling
content to their captive audience. There are still a few little quirks,
and likely still some balancing and other changes required, but it’s
clear that this is a great World of Warcraft expansion, and that the
team behind the game are still focused on giving WoW players what they
want. Recommended.

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